In my previous post, I discussed the reasons why I turned to Ubuntu – and one of the key decision points was COST – it doesn’t cost anything. One commenter, Ms. Elle (a Nurse) asked if Ubuntu is an OS (Operating System), and she’s right – for those who haven’t heard about Ubuntu – yes it is an OS just like Microsoft Windows (98, XP, Vista), but differs in so many ways.

What is the meaning of Ubuntu? Ubuntu is an African word which means ‘Humanity to others’, or ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’.

Ubuntu Installation

The two colleagues whom I instructed to install Ubuntu on the Lenovo laptops haven’t used or seen Ubuntu before. After a few “hiccups” as Archon put it, the guys were able to install Ubuntu on the Lenovos, with all its drivers, including WIFI and network peripherals. The problem was simple – the Installer they used was an older version – so it all needed a connection to the internet and Ubuntu automatically detected the Software Update and downloaded the latest update which fixed the issues on wifi and some peripherals. Installing Ubuntu is easy – just insert the CD installer (bootable) and follow simple instructions and just a few clicks.

Ubuntu comes in two editions – the Server Edition and Desktop Edition. For desktop PC and Laptops like the Lenovos, just download the Desktop Edition (it is almost 700MB – about 4 hours download time on standard home DSL), or if you have a slow internet connection, you can request free CD installers from Canonical – the developer of Ubuntu. I also have the latest Ubuntu Desktop installer on CD if you are interested, I can probably give out some free CD installers.

Ubuntu Look and Feel

Ubuntu looks like Windows Vista, in my own opinion, but with much cleaner desktop and more organized Application Menus. The graphics looks cooler and doesn’t hurt the eyes. Menu Bars are better, and Icons don’t clutter on your desktop screen. The default desktop theme looks great, and you can change your themes just like the way you change your Windows wallpaper. You can check out the features of Ubuntu Desktop at Ubuntu website.

Email Setup and Security

My team also successfully setup the email (POP3) client after a few small issue on Email Security settings. Part of the Ubuntu install process is the installation of the default email client Evolution. A Keyring is generated and will be required for setting up the PGP/GPG (Pretty Good Privacy / GNU Privacy Guard) in Evolution Security setup. What it does is something I haven’t checked yet – but presumably, its one of the advantages of using a Linux OS like Ubuntu – security is always an important feature. Without it, you cannot send emails. So during installation, make sure to write down your keyring value.

Office Productivity Tools

Ubuntu comes with a complete suite of Office Productivity Tools provided by OpenOffice is free, and is already a complete package that most small to medium businesses (even large corporations) need. It has a Word Processing for writing documents, a Spreadsheet application, a database application, a Presentation application and much more. The OpenOffice Writer has all these applications in one program – for creating and editing documents, reports, presentations, graphics and web pages. You can also save documents in several formats, that can be opened by Microsoft Office, Word Perfect, KOffice or StarOffice.

How Much Ubuntu Costs

Unless you are using applications that are written in Microsoft languages, in most cases, Ubuntu can already support the requirements of small and medium companies. With the availability of Open Source applications that are mostly free, from CRM Systems to Business Applications systems – where all you need is a browser, Ubuntu is a very good (and cheap) alternative.

Ubuntu costs nothing – and updates to Ubuntu are always free and will always be free. New Ubuntu releases for both Desktop and Server editions are done every six months, thus ensuring users will always have the latest software updates, drivers and security updates regularly.

Costs to acquire software licenses, and paying regular software maintenance and support can be greatly reduced somewhere between 40 to 80 percent, or even 100%. It is even more higher savings when you migrate to Open Source applications.

Open Source applications are a great way to save money while running your business, and focus and re-allocate your capital investments to some other business requirements that help grow your revenue. While there are still skeptics about Open Source systems, its growth has been very significant in recent years.

Even big Software companies like Oracle, SAP and IBM have already certified Linux (Red Hat and Novell) to run their applications. While Oracle and SAP have no plans yet to include Ubuntu Linux platform in their certification list yet – it wouldn’t be a surprise if soon these giants will consider Ubuntu as more and more sensible users and companies will adopt it thus reducing the costs to own and run Oracle and SAP business applications.